Cory Booker is having another Spartacus moment.
The New Jersey Senator and Democratic Presidential candidate, most famous for comparing himself to Spartacus during the Senate hearings to confirm Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, announced this week a sweeping, 15-point gun control platform that the New York Times called the “most progressive” of any candidate to date.
The real Spartacus, who took up arms against a tyrannical Roman government, would not approve.
Among other items on Booker’s “Plan to End the Gun Violence Epidemic,” the senator includes a proposal to institute a national gun licensing program similar to state programs that license drivers to operate vehicles.
“Just as a driver’s license demonstrates a person’s eligibility and proficiency to drive a car, a gun license demonstrates that a person is eligible and can meet certain basic safety and training standards necessary to own a gun,” Booker says.
Individuals would be required to seek a gun license at a local office by submitting fingerprints, providing basic background information, and demonstrating completion of a certified gun safety course. Once the FBI gives their approval, the license would allow owners to “freely purchase and own firearms” for five years. Once those five years expire, the gun owner would have to renew the license.
Booker’s licensing program represents the only significant departure from the gun control proposals of other Democratic presidential candidates, and it’s received the majority of the criticism from gun rights groups.
“With this proposal, Booker isn’t just one of those anti-gun politicians who claims to ‘support the Second Amendment…but’,” said Alan Gottlieb, chairman of the Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms. “He’s literally throwing a constitutionally-enumerated right into the trash, and he knows it. For a person hoping to be elected to the highest office in the land to advocate such an outrageous proposal isn’t just disappointing, it is disturbing.”
Booker’s plan calls for anti-gun mainstay policies like handgun microstamping, ending the PLCAA, banning “assault weapons” and “high capacity” magazines, supporting red flag laws, and attacking the NRA.
But Spartacus’s proposal also indicates a serious, though unsurprising, ignorance of existing gun law.
For example, despite the fact that the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms recently banned the sale and possession of bump stocks, Booker calls for their prohibition along with AR-15s and 30-round magazines.
It’s also unclear how Booker’s licensing program would interact with his support for universal background checks. If every gun owner is required to obtain a federal license to own a firearm, why would they also need to pass a background check for every gun purchase?
Finally, Booker’s support of a one-gun-a-month mandate reveals his ignorance of the history of gun control attempts. That policy was implemented in South Carolina and Virginia, but it failed to prevent crime and was later repealed. What’s more, a similar law in Washington, D.C., was struck down by a federal appeals court in 2015.
“Booker’s brainstorm is nothing more than a combination of every pie-in-the-sky idea on the gun control wish list,” Gottlieb summarizes. “While his plan is disturbing, what is even more alarming is that not one other Democrat now in the race denounced the plan. If they all agree with Booker, they need to admit it now so voters realize they are all willing to trample on the Bill of Rights.”
The good news for gun owners is that Booker is unlikely to realize his Spartacus dreams. The Senator consistently ranks in the second tier of Democratic presidential candidates, garnering between 2 and 3 percent of the vote, according to most recent polling data.
Still, as President Trump proved in 2016, candidates can outperform polls, and there’s still over a year before the Democratic primary. Booker’s aggressive gun control platform could be exactly what he needs to catapult him into the top tier of candidates and give Uncle Joe a run for his money.